Insights

How to Value Jewellery for Probate: Tips on What to do for a Jewellery Valuation for Probate

With probate, the accurate valuation of assets is important for calculating inheritance tax and ensuring the Will provisions can be properly followed. If you misreport values to HM Revenue & Customs you are liable for penalties and interest. Amongst these assets, the valuation of jewellery can present a unique challenge, with precious gemstones, intricate designs and sentimental value all factoring into the equation.

Proper valuation can also help avoid disputes between beneficiaries if the jewellery is to be divided or shared out. Our insights can help you make sure that you are following the correct procedures and prevent the miscalculation of inheritance tax when valuing estate assets.

Why is Cataloguing Jewellery for Probate Important?

During the probate process jewellery is classed as a ‘chattel’, which refers to movable personal property or possessions. Chattels include other items such as furniture, vehicles, as well as many other personal belongings (but they usually do not include items used in connection with a business).

As part of the probate process and the executor ensuring proper records are kept, a person’s chattels may be itemised and then distributed according to the instructions in their Will or, in the absence of a Will, according to the laws of intestacy. If there are no instructions in the Will for specific items, then the chattels can be so sold or may be distributed amongst the Will beneficiaries, depending on the detailed Will provisions and the powers given to the executor.

Don’t Throw Anything Away

First you should not make any hasty decisions. If you feel like something isn’t worth anything it is best to double check and make sure you are not disposing of anything valuable. Particularly with personal belongings an item can have significant sentimental value even if there is no monetary value. Even though something may not hold sentimental value to you, this may be different to other beneficiaries mentioned in the Will. Instead collect all jewellery items owned by the deceased and document what you have.

Things to Look Out for When Deciding if Something is Worth Valuing

Although it can be hard to the untrained eye to pinpoint which items have more value than others, there are some tell-tale signs to look out for when figuring out if things have value or not:

  • Regardless of its style, size or gem setting, gold will always have value, even as scrap metal. The price it can get for scrap will depend on how many carats it is and its weight. To the untrained eye it might be difficult to see how many carats it has, so we suggest going to a jeweller and asking for them to value it. If you find you need to personally value a large amount of gold jewellery it might be worth buying an Assay Test kit online.
  • It is much easier to find out if an item is sterling silver as they are usually stamped with the number ‘925’. If you find that the item has other stamps on it this could allude to where the item was made. Read more about the stamps here.
  • The value of pearls is difficult to establish without detailed knowledge of the type and quality of the pearls.
  • When trying to value a gemstone, pay attention to the setting of the stone; a gem encased in inexpensive settings like plastic or tarnished metal is less likely to be authentic. Furthermore, check the stone for subtle inclusions, as their presence suggests a naturally occurring gemstone – a magnifying glass or loupe may be helpful tools for this purpose.

If you are unsure about anything, we do recommend speaking to a jeweller to make sure that you know what every item is.

Do you Need an Expert Valuation?

You risk HM Revenue and Customs imposing penalties on you if you submit inaccurate value of assets. Depending on the circumstances this can be up to 100% of the tax that would have been due, had an accurate value been submitted. Unless you are sure that the jewellery has no value or only minimal value then an expert valuation is the best course of action. Only use your estimated values if you are sure your estimate is accurate.

What Happens When Getting Probate Valuations for Jewellery?

Probate usually requires valuing assets at their open market value, which is the price the item might reasonably be expected to fetch if sold in the open market at the date of death, less any liabilities that may be deducted.

This value is different from an insurance replacement value; the probate value is what you might expect to sell it for in an auction (ignoring auctioneer fees) and the insurance value is what you might have to pay to buy a brand new similar item in a shop.

It is usually best to phone nearby stores and check if they do professional valuations of items for probate. We recommend calling up more than one shop to compare prices and timescales.

Once you have chosen your appraiser, you will get them to provide detailed written appraisals for each item for Probate. If the item is valuable these appraisals should include a description of the jewellery and photographs as well as their probate value. Make sure you have taken photos of the items before you hand them over so that no item is forgotten.

Communicate with Beneficiaries

Communicate openly with beneficiaries regarding the distribution of the estate’s jewellery. In some cases, beneficiaries may choose to receive specific pieces instead of their cash equivalent. This also ties into the item’s sentimentality – some pieces of jewellery may have great emotional significance to other family members. You need to follow the Will provisions, so do get professional advice if in doubt.

Gift Giving within 7 Years of Death

If the deceased gifted jewellery within 7 years of their passing, then it must be declared and included in the probate process. Read more about gift giving on our blog post: Gifts and Inheritance: What You Should Know.

Conclusion

Valuing jewellery for probate requires precision and documentation to ensure the fair and accurate distribution of assets and to protect the executor from financial penalties. An informed valuation is also a means of preserving the legacy of the departed and helping to ensure the fair and proper division where there is relevant. Working with professionals, maintaining clear records and considering both monetary and sentimental value are all essential aspects of this process.

Who We Are

With over a century of service to Sussex families, we understand that each family is different. Recognizing the uniqueness of every family and client, we tailor our legal services to your specific needs.

We are happy to share the Probate work with the family and we often work on that basis. We do the technical paperwork making sure all the assets are properly dealt with, debts paid, and the probate application and Inheritance tax calculations and allowances and returns to HM Revenue and Customs are properly dealt with. You might want to clear the property, deal with utility bills, and distribute items that have been left to individual beneficiaries. We will work with you to achieve the best division of what needs to be done so the estate is dealt with efficiently and as quickly as possible, keeping the legal fees down and minimising stress and worry for the family.

Alternatively, you may find yourself in a position where you need a more hands on approach from us. We provide additional services, such as help with the funeral arrangements, collecting and distributing assets amongst the beneficiaries, and arranging the clearance and cleaning of the property. If you wish we can handle everything from arranging the funeral right up to completing estate administration and distributing the assets. For a more in-depth look at our services, click here.

For more information reach out to us by email at enquire@bbc-law.co.uk or by phone at 01273 604 123.

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